Printer's Tray

We have an original wooden printer's tray in our History of Medicine Collection.

The invention of printing meant that medical textbooks, with accurate sketches of the human body, could now be produced more cheaply and this helped ideas to spread rapidly.   

Modern, factory-produced "movable type" was available in the late nineteenth century. Movable type uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document, usually on paper. The world's first movable type printing technology for printing was made of porcelain and was invented around 1040 AD in China by Bi Sheng (990–1051).

The movable items were held in the printing shop in a job case, which was a drawer about two inches high, three feet wide, and about two feet deep, with many small compartments for the "sorts" (various letters). Traditionally, the capital letters were stored in a separate drawer, or case, placed above the case holding the other letters (this is why the capital letters are called "uppercase" characters, and the small ones are "lower case").

Movable type was much faster for documents with letters than the earlier woodblock printing. 

Listen to Dr David Rundle, historian of the Middle Ages and Renaissance across Europe at the University of Oxford, talk about the invention of the printing press and movable type here: